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Safety tips for Baltimore cyclists, after a rash of attacks on bike riders

Is it either-or for city bicyclists: contend with cars in the middle of the road or muggers nearer the sidewalk?

cyclosity column bicyclist on Calvert

Bicyclist on Calvert Street stays out toward the middle of the road.

Photo by: Liam Quigley

Contrary to what regular Baltimore Sun comment page denizens would have you believe, carrying a firearm is probably not the best approach to protecting yourself while riding a bicycle in Baltimore. Here are some tips that can make you safer that don’t involve getting a concealed carry license.

1.) TAKE THE ROAD? – It’s important to ride defensively and assert your right to a lane on the roadway – but there can be little tolerance for this from drivers in a city where the police department is quick to use the “accident” label in lieu of a real investigation.

Drivers are often aggressive towards cyclists who barely occupy space on the street – riding towards the middle of the lane might makes you safer from ambushes by criminals, but also more likely to be harassed by a dangerous driver.

2.) TRY THE NEW BIKE LANES – St. Paul is slowly becoming a safer downtown route. Two relatively new bike lanes offer some breathing room from University Parkway to 30th Street, and North Avenue to Penn Station. Bolt Bus and its customers have become notorious for blocking the bike lane there, but according to a Bolt Bus representative, there are plans to move the stop to avoid blocking it in the future.

Bike lane blocked by taxi on St. Paul Street, near Penn Station. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

Bike lane blocked by taxi on St. Paul Street, near Penn Station. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

I recommend using the right lane despite the bus traffic. JHU buses are generally not aggressive to overtake you, and if you feel like drivers are trying to squeeze you out, assert your right to ride in the right lane.

3.) CONSIDER CALVERT TO GO NORTH – Calvert is generally not a popular north bound street for cyclists. It has rough pavement with gaps that can cause pinch flats, and it’s generally narrow enough to make it uncomfortable to ride in, especially considering many drivers travel on it above 35 miles per hour. After recent events, though, some might consider Calvert as a new route uptown. If you do, practice common sense. Anticipate waves of vehicles approaching behind you and ride defensively. Remember where dangerous sections of pavement are, and don’t make sudden lane changes to avoid them at the last minute.

4.) GUILFORD YOUR BEST BET – Guilford is still probably the safest north-south route. You’ve got more people riding it during the day and night. The pavement isn’t terrible, and vehicular traffic isn’t fast enough or frequent enough to be a huge concern, which gives you more focus to be prepared for other threats.

5.) MAKE USE OF HOPKINS SECURITY COPS – After you’ve crossed 25th, you’re likely to see one or more JHU security officers in Honda Pilots who are stationed on various corners along Guilford Avenue for much of the night. Consider adding the Johns Hopkins University emergency phone number 410-516-7777 to your contacts.

6.) START TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF – If you are harassed or attacked on your bike, or have a concern you want to share, email Nate Evans, the city’s Bicycle Co-ordinator. Nate runs the city’s unofficial bike blog. I’ll include any valuable info in the comments in this post or in future articles.

Night, Baltimore. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

Night, Baltimore. (Photo by Liam Quigley)

The recent attacks increase the need for an ongoing dialogue and greater understanding of the needs of cyclists by the Baltimore Police Department. That’s why it’s important to have people communicating effectively on behalf of Baltimore cyclists –- like at the City Council hearing and voting session scheduled for 2:30 pm on Monday Aug. 30 in the Reeves Conference room on the fourth floor of City Hall. It’s a work and voting session for the Community Development Subcommittee.

They will be discussing several important bike bills: one concerning the relations between bicyclists and the police, another about bike lanes and a third on switching grates to the road-safe kind. The council tackled these bills earlier this year and the Brew wrote about it.

- Liam Quigley is the president of the MICA cycling association and regularly commutes between Downtown and Upper Charles Village.  Watch for more bike-centric posts from him on the Brew.

Be sure to check our full comment policy before leaving a comment.

  • Dukiebiddle

    With respect to what Nate Evans is trying to do with Guilford, I could not disagree more with your recommendation that Guilford is safer than North Calvert and Charles. I was attacked twice on Guilford over a 5 week period by two unrelated groups. The first time was by young teenagers. I didn't use Guilford for a month before I decided that it was an isolated incident and started using it again, only to be attacked by a group of adults within one week. It is the lack of road traffic that makes Guilford so dangerous between North and 26th. A cyclist is ALWAYS isolated and alone on Guilford. Guilford goes straight through BGF gang territory. Remember Barklay and Eastside are about 1000 times worse than Remington. The majority of kids that are targeting cyclist on all the north/south routes are coming from Barklay and Eastside, NOT the Westside. The best bet is to use either Charles or N. Calvert to go north and use your ears: if there are cars behind you stay safely and practicably to the right, if there are no cars take the center in the presence of groups of youth. They are not likely to attack you in the presence of cars, and are less likely to attack you when you are in the center of the lane and can mash your way to safety. But on Guilford there are NEVER any cars or witnesses around to provide a cyclist with any safety from attacks.

    • baltimorebrew

      Thanks for the good feedback. What exactly happened in these two attacks? Did you get hurt? Did they rob you of bike, $, etc? -FS

      • Dukiebiddle

        I was very lucky in both incidents. The first time I was riding uphill, identified the situation in front of me before they identified me as a target and was already mashing and moving over to the left side of the street. One of the kids ran a corner route on me, caught up and took a swing at my head instead of trying to push me over. I was able to duck and get away. The second time I was riding downhill and the attacker from the group was parallel when he took chase. He didn't have a chance of catching up and quickly gave up.

        There won't be a third time because I will not use Guilford between North and 25th anymore, period; which is a pity because I was really behind what Nate Evens is trying to there. Riding up Guilford when you are not being attacked is fantastic. But given the potential dangers from assault, lack of car traffic or a police presence , Guilford is years away from being a safer option than sharing the road with streets with heavy motorized traffic.

        • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

          I hear what you're saying, but considering Micheal Byrne was assaulted and had his bike stolen on Charles, and someone else sustained injuries from rocks thrown on Falls Road in the past few weeks, I still maintain that Guilford is the safest overall route. I would concede that Soutbound you're better off on St Paul.

          The less people riding on Guilford, the less safe it is. I routinely see other riders going in both directions on Guilford. The more that ride it, the safer is should become. Maybe the city should organize nightly bike-pooling group rides on Guilford and increase.

          Oh, and I hardly trust Baltimore motorists to be of much help to a cyclist they see getting attacked, if the last few incidents are any indication.

          • Michael Byrne

            Yeah, I'm not so sure about your assertion about Guilford being safer, specifically that it has more bike traffic. And, moreover, I really don't think just telling people to avoid Charles is going to solve anything here. Even after getting attacked there, I'd have a hard time arguing that it is somehow “less safe” than any of the other routes.

          • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

            “The Michael Byrne Situation”. I like it. Do you mind if I call you that from now on?

            I'm not telling anyone to avoid Charles – I use it frequently for northbound travel. By mentioning the most recent incidents, I was trying to explain that Guilford is not more dangerous just because Dukiebiddle experienced problems there.

            My opinion remains that it's the safest, but not by much. I'll try harder to make distinctions between safe and unsafe and exactly what I mean to say…

            It definitely sucks that you have to pick between the least dangerous, but still dangerous streets for northbound riding. As if the uphill wasn't enough to deal with.

          • Dukiebiddle

            Respectfully, two daytime attacks on one cyclist from unrelated groups in a span of about 6 successive rides is a little more significant than “a few problems.” It is representative of an alarming and critical safety problem. My intent was not to dehumanize Michael Byrne's assault, but to point out that a single incident is limited data. Any assault on me or on the overwhelming majority of other riders would not result in a newspaper article unless we were hospitalized, because the overwhelming majority of us are not well networked with media types. I'm sorry that Michael Byrne suffered the attack, and I'm glad that the problem is finally receiving media attention, but let's not jump to the conclusion that one attack on a well networked individual on Charles Street means that Charles is the most dangerous of the problematic north/south routes. Environmental factors would lead me to believe that another particular route is far more dangerous.

          • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

            Next time I see Nate I'll ask him where he stands on this based on the information given. Can anyone find the map showing attacks on cyclists in the past few years? Is that map even useful, or just totally outdated?

          • Michael Byrne

            Well, the coverage at least in the Sun–I haven't seen anything on TV–had to do with it being a series of attacks. I think mine was like the third of its kind in two weeks (according to police).

          • Michael Byrne

            As far as motorists are concerned, when I got jumped they'd clearly waited for a traffic break. And it being rush hour it wasn't a very long one. The next car was only like 50 yards behind me–which only gave the dudes like 20 seconds to get me down and get the bike. Which brings me back to Guilford: I'd rather have gotten jumped on Charles than a dark street with infrequent traffic/witnesses.

            Anyhow, the next car coming did actually stop and help, at least so far as they could: which was following the dudes up a block to see what direction they went, and coming back to call 911 and make sure I was OK.

            If you guys are reading this: thanks!

          • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

            That's awesome that they did that. I always admired that bike, even when you were passing me on Charles. Hope there's still a chance of getting it back…

          • Michael Byrne

            Thanks. I've had that bike for almost ten years and we've been in a great many ridiculous situations together. I'm kind of naked without it. An additional bummer is that I'm sure it's dumped in an alley or in some woods by now because, well, the pedals don't stop spinning.

          • Dukiebiddle

            The Micheal Byrne situation only got press because he is employed by the media. The rock throwing kids on Falls, though disconcerting, were 9 year olds. They're 2 or 3 years away from being truly dangerous, and I saw a tweet from someone in the Copy Cat that has been watching kids do the same thing on Guilford last week. By bedroom window looks out on Guilford, and yes there is substantial cycle traffic during the morning and evening rush hours. During the non-rush hours those routes are no-man zones. I was attacked at noon on a Sunday, and at 9:30 a.m. on a workday. I like the theory that bicycle modal traffic will generate safety in numbers, but we're at least a decade away from enough bicycle traffic to do anything other than attract more bands of wilding youth to go there to get free bikes, which is what we are experiencing now. Word-of-mouth has obviously gotten around the youth community. If you get attacked between North and 25th now, not only will there be no bicycle or motorist witnesses, but the people in those communities who may witness an attack will be unwilling to testify on your behalf.

            As for motorist not helping cyclists, every single time I've had a bicycle accident (and in my first year of riding I had a couple), no matter how small, a motorist has always stopped and asked if I was okay. A few months ago I had an embarrassing tumble on Charles turning onto Mt Royal and landed on my face. What did the cyclists behind me do? Nothing. They just rolled around the heap of me and my bicycle laying in my own blood. Indecently, they were not together. It was a train of three bicycles with me in the front. A motorist, on the other hand, pulled over. I don't think it is particularly constructive to believe that 100% of all motorists hate us and don't care (only5-10% hate us, and only 1% buzz us intentionally). Nor do I think we should delude ourselves about the positive strength of our community. In an urban environment safe routes need to be on trafficked and populated routes. Guilford isn't trafficked, it isn't populated, it isn't adequately patrolled by police and the citizens won't even bare witness for you if attacked. Currently, the only mode of transport that provides enough witnesses to protect us from street attacks are motorized vehicles.

          • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

            I didn't mean to make it sound like more cyclists on Guilford mean one big happy family where everyone is looking out for one another, but I do mean to say that we shouldn't give up on it.

            I should have clarified also that I don't mean to say that drivers are useless to us (I had no idea a motorist had helped out the Michael Byrne Situation like that).

            If everyone backed down from Guilford and other streets we perceive as more dangerous, do we all end up on Charles everyday, terrified of riding on other north/south streets? What about when you have to use Guilford to get somewhere specific, or someone else does who lives there? I'd rather be biking north on Guilford occasionally to maintain a presence there.

            Don't retreat yet.

          • Baltimorebicyclist

            I ride Guilford every morning toward the inner harbor, I take falls -> Maryland -> Mt. Royal turns into Guilford.

            No problems as of yet and most cars seem to be safest. Only once have I rode northbound on guilford and I will never do that again. I'll stick to charles street.

          • jj101

            Yes, I was amazed that 3 cars drove right by a fellow cyclist as he was getting pelted by rocks from the group of kids on falls road last week (around 5:20 pm). I was on my bike and stopped, hoping the cars would too, until the kids started to go after me as well. Hopefully they'll be gone once school starts or the pool closes.

        • http://twitter.com/buzoncrime Jerry Buz Busnuk

          I agree with Dukie, though I respect Liam a lot—
          As a not-so-strong cyclist as i used to be, a former city cop, and former director of field operations of Charles Village for Charles Village Benefits District, I recommend staying away from Guilford, except, perhaps, with other strong riders, and dudring the day.

          Fortunately, these incidents, thankfully, are fairly rare, though your risks are higher the close you arre to Greenmount.

          The part of Charles between North and 25th is kind of dicey, but there is a lot more traffic, people and cars, and police, than thre arre on Guilford. Guilford is much safer traffic-wise, but much more dangerous around 23-rd-25th, as far as criminal activity goes. And it is on the edge of BGF territory. It's not really gangs, that are the problem, per se. It is a simmering anger against those perceived as “haves”, daring to flaunt it riding your fancy bike through our 'hood, as well as just the sport of “banking” people who arre not part of your group. Stealing your bike is a plus. Please see some of my related thoughts at buzoncrime.blogspot.com.

          • Dukiebiddle

            For the record, I respect Liam too. I just respectfully disagree about Guilford being safer. :)

          • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

            @ Buz / Dukie :

            Thanks for posting Buz. I really liked your most recent post. As for the safety of Guilford, I should say that I write here only from observation and experience. I'll do my best to include these notes in future posts that mention Guilford as a 'safe' bike route. I'd be interested to hear Nate Evans comment on the dangers of riding there.

            I've since switched to St Paul exclusively for riding downtown.

          • http://twitter.com/buzoncrime Jerry Buz Busnuk

            I like Falls Road to Maryland Avenue to get downtown, despite the recent report. (Or one can take Maryland from anywhere in the Charles Village area–just watch out for those big trucks of Potts & Callahan).
            Maryland Avenue is wide till past UB and the motorists have good sight lines till you're around School for the Arts.

    • blackeye

      I rarely ride up Calvert anymore just because I know it's only a matter of time before I get doored again. That road is just way too narrow, with way too much traffic. When I did ride it, I'd cut over to Guilford at 26th. Guilford north of 26th feels safer (at least when it's still daylight). I still ride Guilford south in the morning, and never have had a problem. Depending on how I feel at the end of the day now, I still sometimes ride it north all the way, too. I had been cutting over to Falls for a more pleasant (albeit out-of-my-way) ride home. But having encountered that group of kids last week, I feel less inclined to even go up Falls. There really is no way north now that I feel 100% good about.

      • Dukiebiddle

        My trick for avoiding dooring is imagining a moat full of piranhas in the 4 foot door zone. Of course I cannot allow my tire line within 1 foot of a piranha infested moat (that would be crazy), so that leaves me with a five foot space between my line and the right door, which I consider to be a navigable and safe right lane cycling position. Occasionally, there will be a driver behind me who doesn't see things my way, but what am I supposed to do, ride into a moat full of piranhas? So I get occasional honks, buzzes, revved engines and anglo saxonates. No matter, none of these things are nearly as dangerous as a dooring.

        Seriously though, I have not crossed into a door zone in years.

        • blackeye

          That is quite a claim to make, especially considering the door zone on Calvert extends well into the righthand lane of traffic in many places. Between the narrowness of the road and the way people park I find it hard to believe that anyone stays out of the door zone on that road all the way up. If you're saying you never ride between traffic in the right lane and the cars parked on the right, then it must take you awhile to make it up Calvert during rush hour. I used to just look for heads and get there faster, but now I just avoid Calvert below Lafayette and above 26th, if I ride it at all.

          • Dukiebiddle

            I afraid I don't quite understand what you mean. If you are cycling up North Calvert street, and keeping 5 feet between your line and parked cars, there is absolutely nothing inhibiting a cyclist from going anywhere between 8 and 20 mph, depending entirely on at what speed that cyclist wants to travel. If there is enough space for a driver to pass safely, then good for them. If there isn't, they can pass in the fast lane, as my practicable and safe riding position in the right hand lane makes it MY lane. My practicable and safe lane position is defined by the door zone, not by how much of the lane cars behind me want. Rush hour does not change that. Practicable and safe riding requires us all to stay out of the door zone at all times. It isn't a claim, it is safe practice. If a door zone extends a foot or two into the traffic lane then I must be riding 2 or 3 feet into the lane of traffic, which is safest.

          • blackeye

            What I mean is I'd rather not wait in traffic, which is what I'd be doing if I stayed in the middle of the lane at all times during rush hour. Besides, I got doored on Charles while riding in the middle of the right lane. All it took was the edge of their door to hit the end of my bars and I was flat on my back in the road before I knew what happened.

          • Dukiebiddle

            We all have different practices. I stopped filtering a long time ago, not only because of the dooring and legal practice issues, but because I am of the strong opinion that the majority of hostile acts against us are retribution for us getting away with things that motorists cannot. I estimate that hostile motorist activity against me went down by at least 80% when I decided to ride in 100% legal compliance (I stop and wait at all red lights, regardless of traffic density. I come to a 'virtual' stop at all stop signs – I track stand and slow to out a half a mile per hour, just like the cars do). Another issue of filtering to the right of traffic is that when we do that we have a tendency of passing the same cars over and over again, which means that the same drivers have to pass us over and over again, which aggravates them more and more until they finally lash out at us. I call that my 'Pass Me Once' rule. If a car passes me once, they are done with me. That REALLY minimizes the hostility towards me. Motorists may hate me the same, but when I'm 100% legal compliant they seem to feel compelled to respect my right to the road – most of the time, at least. The instances of me being slowed by traffic slower than cycling are rare enough that I accept them. If anything, traffic slowed to at or below my preferred speed is a road equalizer. Standing momentarily in traffic is a little breather, which helps keep me from breaking a sweat and allows me to be chill, my preferred urban cycling mode. Also, roving bands of youths will not attack you when you are queued in a traffic jam with motorists.

            Yeah, you really have to watch out for that on Charles Street. I attribute it to all the businesses between North and 29th or so, but on every block you are prone to have a car or two double park to let out passengers and open doors in the middle of the street. Problem is, even if you are in the middle of the lane you are still in door zone in those situations. I've had my share of doors opened on me on Charles too. That's probably why I prefer N. Calvert.

          • Baltimorebicyclist

            I've noticed a lot of conversation here about how crummy Baltimore streets are with being bike friendly. I feel the same way. That's why I start baltimorebicyclist.blogspot.com

            Now I can vent and maybe get some people's input.

      • Dukiebiddle

        Oh, and I should add I do often use Guilford north of 26th and south of North too (actually 20th), I just cut over to N. Calvert for 6 blocks. I really do love Guilford and the bike boulevard concept too, there's just a critical public safety issue for that short stretch that needs to be addressed by the city before it can be considered viable.

  • glsever

    Bikers driving in the middle of the road as shown in the picture, is the exact reason that drivers have so much hostility toward cyclists. Cyclists absolutely have a right to safe usage of the roads, but they should also be logical and respectful. Nothing frustrates me more than when I drive home from work (a less than 3 mile commute), and a cyclist is riding in the middle of the road going below the speed limit, and then zooms past cars stopped at the red light and proceeds during the red light. If a cyclist is going to be part of traffic, then he or she should be required to follow all of the traffic laws just like the cars. Otherwise, just ride as close to the side of the road as possible. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    • Dukiebiddle

      Well the good news is the law was just changed a few months ago in Maryland to permit cyclists to take the full lane. Those cyclists are following the law. I just hope you too are following all traffic laws and driving below the speed limit as well as giving cyclist 3 feet when you pass. Thanks for looking out for more vulnerable road users. :)

    • Dukiebiddle

      Actually, after looking at that picture again, I see that the rider is actually in the perfect lane position. He is on the right side of the right traffic lane. The lane to his right is a parking lane.

      That cyclist should be commended for his courteous and safe perfect lane position.

    • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

      “Bikers Driving”. Did you mean to say “cyclists riding”? You may believe that cars and bikes are exactly the same but they are not.

      -
      As for logical use, the rider pictured above, and myself were both conscious of those driving behind us, and were averaging around 20mph for much of Calvert. I honestly am happy if we slowed down drivers who think it's okay to travel 40+ mph on Calvert.

  • seantemple

    The main pic isn't Saint Paul Street, I believe.

    • baltimorebrew

      Good catch, thanks, we fixed it!

  • Pookie

    Is Greenmount not a viable alternative?

    • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ cyclosity

      Greenmount is pretty miserable. I only use it above 33rd Street. Even then I go out of my way not to.

  • http://twitter.com/buzoncrime Jerry Buz Busnuk

    Perhaps a Critical Mass ride up the various streets would enable the riding community to establish its presence?! For crime safety versus asserting the right to ride/car safety?

    In the meantime, Brew has provided a venue for the biking folks to comment about the safety in various routes out of downtown.

    I rode, yesterday afternoon, the length of Falls Road alongside the street car museum down to Maryland Avenue and back. Though, there were only a few other people, I saw no groups of menacing juveniles; in fact, I saw no juveniles at all! (Though I think the Druid Hill Pool is still open till Labor Day). There were a couple of other cyclists; two different couples walking dogs; and a handful of cars; that was it–and I'm not a fast rider. This has generally been my experience with this route, notwithstanding the experience of the rider mentioned by Rodericks.

    I have seen more and more riders after the traditional work day coming out of downtown riding north here. So, it may be a viable alternative to Guilford, or even Charles, northbound till this stuff settles down. And the new bike shop is there!
    However, I would not recommend it to solo women riders after dark.

    • jj101

      I believe the Druid Park Pool is open 12-5, and is open until Labor day. School starts 8/30 so hopefully these kids will have to be done having their fun this week.

  • Meredithamitchell

    Thanks for staring this very necessary dialog Liam. (Also, so glad you will be doing some writing for the Brew, I look forward to reading more from you). I think it is so important that cyclists have a space to share our experiences and use each other a resources.

  • http://www.carfreebaltimore.com Mark

    This is a tangential argument, but the blight between North Ave and 25th street (and throw in parts of Greenmount West) is a gaping hole in what could otherwise be the largest contiguous stretch of vibrant neighborhoods in the city. This is a relatively small area which gets a lot of press, has high visibility, and divides burgeoning neighborhoods. If efforts aren't focused swiftly and steadily to improve this section of town (mostly east of Charles Street), we'll see Charles Village deteriorate and progress in Station North stall. It's one of those key pieces which, if left to rot, could take 2 or 3 other neighborhoods down with it in a bad way.

    If Barclay and the like could be stabilized, then we no longer have “islands” of good neighborhoods, but a solid north/south stretch of livability and (relative) safety from Federal Hill up to Johns Hopkins Uni. This would be a game changer in residents “mental map”, and it would go a long way in the perception that blight is under control, even if it isn't.

    And we would be less likely to have situations like this one, where the only possible bike route between downtown, a major college, and good neighborhoods is a lesser of evils where you may get sucker punched by a teenage terrorist.

    • N. Payer

      Barclay and Greenmount West have been bad for many decades by now. I doubt they can get any worse. It is amazing that Peabody Heights area is as nice as it is. Really, it's better near Hopkins now than it was 10 to 15 years ago. Revitalization has moved dreadfully slow in Station North because of the nearby North Ave neighborhoods. Until the BGF and the Greenmount area drug trade wanes (which it has somewhat)–or until the City starts generating more JOBS to make real estate more scarce, those neighborhoods aren't going to rise to the level of areas to the north and south of them.

      Even if there weren't thugs roaming the City, this part of town is not safe to bike in because of the automobile traffic. I think the bike rules should change, though I suspect my changes would not be greeted kindly by the bike community. But there's just too much traffic in the area and it's not going to go away and “calming” doesn't work.

      • Dukiebiddle

        A couple of points:

        1) The rules are not going to change, so your changes will never go beyond opinion.
        2) Sharing the road with cars on gridded urban streets is perfectly safe for able bodied adults, and the statistics for every North American city, including Baltimore, proves this. The intent of bicycle specific infrastructure is to increase modal share by increasing subjective safety, as well as making the roads safe enough for children, seniors and many disabled, as well as functioning as motorized traffic calmers, which do work and saves the lives of many pedestrians.

        • N. Payer

          Says who or what that the rules can't change?

          Secondly, I claim there is not enough space in certain areas, physically for the throughput of cars and bikes at the same level of economic output. My views here are not against biking (I do bike regularly, but it shouldn't matter to my point), but pointing out that everyone can't have everything and that “calming” is a fantasy where road capacity is close to peak as is the case in many parts of Baltimore. Please enlighten me as to what subjective safety is.

          • Dukiebiddle

            The rules are changing, in Maryland as well a just about every other state based on Department of Transportation guidelines, which strongly supports more pedestrian and bicycle friendly engineering. My point is that the tide of change is running contrary to the philosophy that all road engineering and road laws should be built around benefiting motorized vehicle traffic. If a city succeeds in increasing vehicular bicycling modal share to 5%, which it totally achievable in a city, the resultant decrease in motorized traffic relieves enough pressure on the infrastructure to compensate for the lanes and calming devices that made it possible, both in road space and in parking. Simply put, there has not been any more room for more cars in cities for 40 years. You cannot make more room for cars, or make traffic move faster, so you have to find new solutions. New York and San Francisco have both dismantled major highways into their cities, neither have suffered for it, and the quality of life for the citizens who live near or around those former highways has improved. Changing the infrastructure actually actually lowers the peak, and traffic calming increases other modes of traffic, which in turn lowers the peak further.

            Subjective, or perceived safety is I think rather self explanatory. People think it is dangerous to ride a bicycle on a 25 mile road in a gridded city because they keep getting it drummed into their heads that it is dangerous, not because there are any statical evidence that it is actually substantively dangerous. Fact of the matter is that the number of bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in Baltimore is about one fifteenth to twentieth that of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries, as it is in just about every other American city. When you measure the danger of cycling in the city by hours traveled and by distances traveled you see that it is as safe traveling by motor vehicle, which isn't to say that it can't or shouldn't be made safer, as we can see by looking European standards we can make our cities MUCH MUCH safer. Getting bicycles out of the way and making them more free to cars will not make anybody safer. It will just cause more people to be seriously injured and killed in motor vehicle accidents, both in their cars and by cars, as Sunbelt cities show us, cars with more freedom to worry less about bicycles and pedestrians have an uncanny knack for killing more bicyclists and more pedestrians.

          • N. Payer

            I think you are missing my point about productivity and economic output and assuming I'm suggesting certain viewpoints that I'm not advocating. Nevertheless, I'd be interested in any references to modal capacity and safety. The safety aspects sound specious and arguable to me. Anecdotally, I've found biking to be far more dangerous than driving when bikes and cars share the road.

          • Dukiebiddle

            Nationally, the average number of cyclists killed is about 700, motorist killed has dropped to about 37,000, and pedestrians at about 4,300. That is a rate of about 2.33 per million cyclists killed per million, 123.3 motorists per million and 14.3 pedestrians per million annually.

            Maryland's annual pedestrian fatality rate is 2.06 per 100,000, or 20.6 per million, significantly above the national average. Maryland averages I believe 10 bicycle fatalities per year, which is an average of about 1.82 per million, below the national. Baltimore has had 8 bicycle fatalities between 2002 and 2010, which is a .75 annual fatality rate, which works out to about 1.18 fatalities per million, well below the national average. This is consistent with the bicycle fatality statistics of just about every gridded North American city with a road system that predates the automobile, with the exception of New York whose modal shares for all types of transport are completely different then other American cities. New York's bicycle fatality rates are consistent with the national average in the mid 2.5ish per million range. Simply put, gridded American cities are safer for bicyclists than either the suburbs or the country, even though the modal share is higher. More light, more traffic signals, slower speeds, straight roads, more cyclists and motorists more accustomed to multimodal traffic mean fewer bicycle fatalities. This is not the case for sunbelt cities, which were set up post automobile for the automobile and are more reflective of suburban sprawl.

            Of course, we all know that fewer people cycle which account for the wildly divergent numbers, which is why the federal government compiles annual modal averages for miles traveled and hours traveled per type of transport. According to federal estimates for fatalities per million exposure hours, the motor vehicle fatality rate is .47, while the cycling is .26. Remember, Baltimore's bicycle fatality rate is nearly half of the national average. Per hour exposed, cycling is twice as safe as driving, while cycling in Baltimore is twice as safe as cycling nationally. Per mile, according to 1997 averages (the most recent I could find), fatality rates were .016 per million for motorists and .039 per million for cyclists; but remember, annual cycling miles per rider are only a fraction of the annual driving miles per motorist.

          • Dukiebiddle

            Oops. Typo – Baltimore has had 6 fatalities between 2002 and 2008. The measured stats should be correct, though.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5WFH7CMGLF6R4XIRYT2OFO4PJQ Paul

    Thanks for the post. I have recently moved uptown to 33rd St area, and have been experimenting with different routes. When I lived in Bolton Hill I'd take Maryland Ave down if I was coming from the CV area, with only a few minor issues. Going uptown, I've settled on Calvert for most of the way – fewer potholes than Charles and you can really fly when there isn't much traffic (like at night) and you can catch/run most of the lights. Still it's dicey once you get up towards Penn Station, North Ave, up to 28th, unfortunately. I usually cut over to Guilford at some point. Its a crap shoot, basically, and there's no great route. Gonna have to try to avoid riding thru there at night, I guess. I do love me some Club Charles, tho.

  • david

    I generally keep my opinions to myself because everyone gottem'. I preface my statement by saying I am a regular cyclist, doing may miles a week. My routes are through the city and balt. county. I am not a regular cycle commuter. I am a city resident. I have ridden for many years in diff. cities. The Falls, Charles route is a regular of mine. I ride as close to the road shoulder as possible, a lot of the time on the white line. I get so frustrated when I am driving my car (necessary for my job) behind a cyclist and they are inability to stay to the side of the road or act as though years of auto history do not exist. As a cyclist I am usually suppressed at how much room I really have (in my opinion) not that automobiles necessarily give it to you. I feel cycling skills are often over looked by cyclists. Bicycles are not toys. To expect to get on a bike and ride comfortably in traffic is gross negligence by budding cyclists. Baltimore Critical Mass does a giant disservice to the cause of safe cycling. I have been behind them in my car on Falls. The group (not all riders) act as anarchists, which I know they are trying to do. But the rolling party – passing bottles in “brown paper bags”, taking up both sides of a two lane road does not inspire motorists to reconsider their driving habits and give new consideration to cyclists. I rarely feel shame but I did that day! I have found, thugs, hooligans and terrorists aside, good eye contact, clearly signaling and having some cycling skills and confidence have kept me safe, mostly! It is hard for the citizens of Baltimore, “the city that really needs a hug” to be concerned about cyclists. I can understand this but I have not stopped riding. This is my personal statement to Baltimore.

    • http://bike.baltimorecommutes.com Nate Evans

      I agree with David. As I try to sell “biking” to Baltimore, the reputtals always include: “How come cyclists don't obey traffic signs & laws?” While Critical Mass can be fun, it does not promote roadsharing or encourage people to get out and ride.

      Tomorrow night's Moonlight Madness Ride is a group ride through the city, but it is NOT a Critical Mass. We'll take ONE LANE, we'll have fun and we'll ride by areas of recent attacks on cyclists. We'll ride in areas that most cyclists wouldn't ride alone.

      Meet in War Memorial Plaza 8pm and RSVP at http://www.socializr.com/event/465093292

      • http://twitter.com/buzoncrime Jerry Buz Busnuk

        Nate—though I posted earlier that “Critical Mass” should ride thru the areas of recent attacks on bicyclists, I didn't really mean the confrontational, “in your face” side of Critical Mass. I see that even the Brew has used similar language on its Tweet. An organized ride in a large group, I think, would be beneficial to “show the flag” and help assert the right to bike the area.
        I do acknowledge that your ride is to be non-confrontational, and I hope that as many African-American riders as possible can be recruited to ride along to defuse any tension with folks on the street as much as possible. And everyone should be as friendly and wave to everyone they pass.

        • http://bike.baltimorecommutes.com Nate Evans

          Thanks Jerry – That's the plan! This ride, like other rides I'm a part of, is courteous to pedestrians, respectful of motorists and (mostly) obedient to traffic laws.

          I started organizing this year's ride about a month ago. It's fairly coincidental that we'll ride past some of the recent hot spots.

  • blackeye

    That is quite a claim to make, especially considering the door zone on Calvert extends well into the righthand lane of traffic in many places. Between the narrowness of the road and the way people park I find it hard to believe that anyone stays out of the door zone on that road all the way up. If you're saying you never ride between traffic in the right lane and the cars parked on the right, then it must take you awhile to make it up Calvert during rush hour. I used to just look for heads and get there faster, but now I just avoid Calvert below Lafayette and above 26th, if I ride it at all.

  • Dukiebiddle

    I afraid I don't quite understand what you mean. If you are cycling up North Calvert street, and keeping 5 feet between your line and parked cars, there is absolutely nothing inhibiting a cyclist from going anywhere between 8 and 20 mph, depending entirely on at what speed that cyclist wants to travel. If there is enough space for a driver to pass safely, then good for them. If there isn't, they can pass in the fast lane, as my practicable and safe riding position in the right hand lane makes it MY lane. My practicable and safe lane position is defined by the door zone, not by how much of the lane cars behind me want. Rush hour does not change that. Practicable and safe riding requires us all to stay out of the door zone at all times. It isn't a claim, it is safe practice. If a door zone extends a foot or two into the traffic lane then I must be riding 2 or 3 feet into the lane of traffic, which is safest.

  • http://twitter.com/ecogordo Gordon Steen

    I had heard that Critical Mass is evolving into Courtesy Critical Mass. Seems like a natural evolution now that bike culture is becoming main stream. Thanks Brew, keep up the great work.

  • http://twitter.com/buzoncrime Jerry Buz Busnuk

    Nate—though I posted earlier that “Critical Mass” should ride thru the areas of recent attacks on bicyclists, I didn't really mean the confrontational, “in your face” side of Critical Mass. I see that even the Brew has used similar language on its Tweet. An organized ride in a large group, I think, would be beneficial to “show the flag” and help assert the right to bike the area.
    I do acknowledge that your ride is to be non-confrontational, and I hope that as many African-American riders as possible can be recruited to ride along to defuse any tension with folks on the street as much as possible. And everyone should be as friendly and wave to everyone they pass.

  • http://twitter.com/ecogordo Gordon Steen

    I had heard that Critical Mass is evolving into Courtesy Critical Mass. Seems like a natural evolution now that bike culture is becoming main stream. Thanks Brew, keep up the great work.

  • baltimorebicyclist

    I've noticed a lot of conversation here about how crummy Baltimore streets are with being bike friendly. I feel the same way. That's why I start baltimorebicyclist.blogspot.com

    Now I can vent and maybe get some people's attention.

  • Baltimorebicyclist

    I've noticed a lot of conversation here about how crummy Baltimore streets are with being bike friendly. I feel the same way. That's why I start baltimorebicyclist.blogspot.com

    Now I can vent and maybe get some people's input.

  • Baltimorebicyclist

    I ride Guilford every morning toward the inner harbor, I take falls -> Maryland -> Mt. Royal turns into Guilford.

    No problems as of yet and most cars seem to be safest. Only once have I rode northbound on guilford and I will never do that again. I'll stick to charles street.

  • baltimorebicyclist

    I've noticed a lot of conversation here about how crummy Baltimore streets are with being bike friendly. I feel the same way. That's why I start baltimorebicyclist.blogspot.com

    Now I can vent and maybe get some people's attention.

  • mojo

    I’ve been riding in Balt 3-5 days a week for 3 years. I’ve never had a problem with the issues mentioned in this story. But to be fair I’m 6’2″ and ride very aggressively; commanding the lane, and making eye contact with all others on the road.     

  • mojo

    I’ve been riding in Balt 3-5 days a week for 3 years. I’ve never had a problem with the issues mentioned in this story. But to be fair I’m 6’2″ and ride very aggressively; commanding the lane, and making eye contact with all others on the road.     

  • Anonymous

    Amongst all this water are lorries buses, taxis, cars and motorbikes. Meandering among them are pedestrians, street vendors, money changers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, lorry drivers, policemen and porters carrying unbelievably large and heavy bundles of unknown content.

  • lasershark

    Regarding the threat of attack/theft/beatings on Guilford, a couple
    questions (submitted here because this post seems to be frequently
    referred to from other threads):

    – In a community full of
    amateur engineers and do-it-yourselfers with cheap 3D printers, why
    hasn’t a Baltimore cyclist invented a lightweight remote-braking device?
    I see the owner’s interface for such a device being something like a
    small bracelet that can be pulled apart to remotely brake the bike. That
    way, no intricate gestures are required to keep your steed from
    escaping — you just pull your bracelet apart (or, in a crowd attack
    situation, someone may do you that favor on their own), and the thing
    locks up, throwing any illicit rider off. The bracelet (or whatever)
    would of course need to use device-specific encryption in order to
    prevent kids from learning to trigger it themselves. That’s pretty easy
    to set up. Combine it with a separate, hidden GPS tracker, and you have a
    bike that’s almost impossible to swipe.

    – For those who insist on riding thousand-dollar bikes through
    neighborhoods full of crushing poverty: Why not get a cheap Chinese road

    bike at Wal-Mart for a couple hundred bucks? I know, I know, you’ll go a
    few milliseconds slower, and there’s the high potential for labor
    abuse, but
    if you really look closely at almost anything else in your life, it was
    probably
    also made by virtual slave labor anyway. If you’re riding through
    high-crime areas, a bike is probably not the place to draw that thin,
    bright line. If buying a cheap bike means that you can relax a bit and
    not be on constant alert around those who happen to be young and brown,
    then maybe its time to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good
    (especially since even many of the most expensive bikes often come from
    sources of dubious ethical integrity.)

    – Is there any sort of group going door-to-door in the community around
    Guilford
    in an organized fashion to let people know about the bike-building
    classes offered in Station North? In these programs, kids essentially
    build a bike that they then get to keep for free. That does a few
    things: It gives kids
    and their parents a personal connection to the
    cycling community — which increases the likelihood of them reporting
    details to the police if someone else robs you — it increases the
    number of bikes already in kids’ hands while not doing so via direct
    charity (which would simply result in a bunch of “so-bad-they’re-free”
    bikes getting discarded), and — most importantly — it convinces the
    kids that there are mentors who care about them, and that they’re good
    enough at an engineering task to consider a career in this kind of
    thing.

More of the Daily Drip »

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  • March 24, 2014

    • Last Thursday, I sent an email to the Mayor’s Office of Communications asking for some basic responsiveness: Please return our emailed queries and phone calls about stories. Please send us the same routine emails you send to other members of the media. Lately, more so than usual, they haven’t been. It’s a shame because, even [...]

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